Second-dose COVID-19 jabs brought forward as Indian variant cases rise

Second-dose COVID-19 vaccinations for over-50s and at-risk groups will be brought forward from 12 to eight weeks after first doses in an attempt to curb rising cases of the Indian variant of the virus, NHS England has confirmed.

In a letter to GPs on 15 May, officials said people in the top nine priority groups who have their second dose appointment scheduled on or after 25 May will have their jab brought forward.

They explained the move would ensure that people have the ‘strongest possible protection’ from the virus at an earlier opportunity - and follows updated advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

However, the letter confirmed that people aged under 50 would continue to get their first dose, with their second dose at 12 weeks as usual.

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GP-led vaccination sites have been instructed to reschedule vaccine appointments and work with their integrated care system (ICS) to bring in extra workforce to run additional clinics. Revised second dose supply delivery schedules will also be ‘communicated shortly’.

The letter said that additional financial support, as well as supporting communications materials, will be made available to primary care network-led local vaccination sites (LVSs) to cover administration costs.

In cases where practices have ‘exhausted all opportunities’ and have ‘insufficient capacity’ to bring forward second doses, NHS England has advised practices to redirect patients to book via the national booking system (NBS).

The latest data on the B.1.617.2 subtype of the Indian variant of coronavirus - published on 13 May - shows that the number of cases across the UK rose from 520 to 1,313 cases over the past two weeks. Most cases are in north-west England, with some in London.

COVID-19 deaths

COVID-19 vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said: ‘Our vaccines are preventing tens of thousands of hospitalisations and deaths due to COVID-19 and there’s early evidence to show the vaccine prevents serious illness from the variants in circulation too.

‘This move is a belt-and-braces approach to ensure as many people as possible have the full protection a vaccine has to offer – make sure to book in your jab when contacted.’

The government has also confirmed that the move will be supported by targeted new activity to accelerate vaccine uptake among eligible cohorts in Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen.

This will include increasing the delivery of vaccines through the three existing local vaccination sites and existing vaccine bus in Bolton - and extending opening hours at Burnley vaccination centre in Blackburn with Darwen.

Vaccination figures

More than 20m UK adults have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the latest government figures.

NHS staff have administered over 56m vaccines between 8 December and 15 May, including more than 36m people with their first dose and over 20m with their second dose.

PHE data show that vaccines have had a significant impact reducing hospitalisations and deaths - saving more than 11,700 lives and preventing 33,000 hospitalisations in England by the end of April.

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